As the lights dimmed, the familiar bagpipe and drum march of “Scotland the Brave” recently rolled across Merriweather Post Pavilion, heralding the return of Sir Rod Stewart, and kicking off a great evening of classic Rod Stewart numbers and few covers that kept the crowd dancing in the aisles and on the lawn.
Having been postponed from the previous year due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the double bill of Rod Stewart and the power pop kings Cheap Trick has been one of the most anticipated shows in the area for some time. So it was no surprise to see lines snaking around Merriweather in the hot summer evening, eventually turning to rows of folding armchairs packing the lawns of the pavilion.
At Merriweather Post Pavilion on Aug. 27, it was my first time seeing both Cheap Trick and Rod Stewart, having narrowly missed the former when they played the Warner Theater, but this turned out to be a pretty great match with Cheap Trick kicking things off with “Dream Police,” and not slowing much, except for the ballad, “The Flame,” which took me — and from the sound of it most of the venue — back in time.
Singer Robin Zander sounded fantastic while guitar maestro Rick Nielsen and bassist Tom Petersson (welding that triple-octave 12-string bass) were joined by Robin’s son, Robin Taylor Zander Jr., on guitar and Rick’s son Daxx Nielsen on drums.
Playing a tight set, Cheap Trick played all the hits and more from “I Want You to Want Me” and the crowd-pleaser “Surrender” to a brilliant cover of the Velvet Underground’s “I’m Waiting for the Man,” with Tom leading in with that 12-string bass solo before taking on vocal duties.
Watch the official music video for “I Want You to Want Me” by Cheap Trick on YouTube:
After a quick stage set change and those lights dimmed, there was a palpable change in the air, as everyone stood, peering toward the stage before the opening lines to the Robert Palmer hit “Simply Irresistible” started playing — complete with a band that was dressed like the band in the Palmer video for the same song.
And it was clear from the onset that Rod Stewart was in fine form. That voice that always sounded so soulful and years older than the bearer seemed to have caught up with Stewart, feeling comfortable and warm but strong.
And if it was just Rod Stewart – that voice – that would be enough, but the full band replete with violins, guitars, drums, a mandolin, saxophone, and even a beautiful harp made for a powerhouse of sound.
As Stewart danced and strutted across the mirrored stage, images of him as a young man were projected on the several screens that bordered the stage. From popular covers that Stewart has made famous, like The Persuaders’ “Some Guys Have All The Luck” and Van Morrison’s “Have I Told You Lately,” to hits like “Maggie Mae” — “four minutes of music that changed my life” — and “Da Ya Think I’m Sexy,” it was an evening filled with songs that this crowd knew like the backs of those clapping and often beer-cluthing hands.
And though Rod Stewart recently released his 31st album, The Tears of Hercules last year, the entire set this night seemed devoted to those older, well-loved numbers.
Watch the official music video for “Forever Young” by Rod Stewart on YouTube:
There were some pleasant surprises too as Rod Stewart and company put on a genuine show as he connected with the crowd — even tossing his cowboy hat into the audience at the end of “Have You Ever Seen the Rain?” — along with changes in costume and lighting and dancing. There was lots of dancing! This was a set designed to get you on your feet and moving, from the Celtic dances after “Forever Young” and “Young Turks” with a heavy dose of West Side Story’s “America,” it was a ride that had everyone sweating, not the least Sir Rod himself as he held his arms outstretched and getting the audience to join in.
Taking a brief break, the band went on to perform Blondie’s “Call Me” on their own before Rod Stewart returned for the great Motown favorite, “People Get Ready” with Stewart seated in a row with his band. The band completed the set with “Hot Legs” and a fun version of Chuck Berry’s “Sweet Little Rock & Roller.” This fun performance put smiles on just about every face in the venue.
Addicted to Love
You Wear It Well
Ooh La La
Some Guys Have All the Luck
It Takes Two
The First Cut Is the Deepest
Have You Ever Seen the Rain?
I’d Rather Go Blind
Da Ya Think I’m Sexy?
Rhythm of My Heart
People Get Ready
Tonight’s the Night (Gonna Be Alright)
You’re in My Heart (The Final Acclaim)
Have I Told You Lately
Sweet Little Rock & Roller
Here are more photos of Rod Stewart performing at Merriweather Post Pavilion on Aug. 27, 2022. All photos copyright and courtesy of David LaMason.
And here are more photos of Cheap Trick opening for Rod Stewart at Merriweather Post Pavilion.